Jonathan Cain, keyboard player with Melodic Rock legends Journey, chatted with Metal Express Radio prior to the start of their European tour.

Last year you came over to the UK for your first shows in 27 years. Why the long wait?

Oh, boy, where do I start? Back in the 80s we had plans to come over to Europe but Steve Perry didn’t want to do it. He just felt like there was an anti-USA sentiment there. We argued with him that music crossed those boundaries. We had good opportunities to play there when Escape came out, but we didn’t, as it was a unanimous decision, so we were sort of blocked out of that one. Then when Frontiers came out there was a festival request in 1984, but he didn’t want to go as he felt it was a dangerous place. We played Canada, The USA, and Japan… that was it. We didn’t go to any other territories so we limited our scope at that point. We reformed the band in ’98 and it was one of the dream wish list kind of things that Journey would get to go to Europe. Our managers were working on it, but it wasn’t really an active thing until we met this guy called Keith and he put the thing into motion and did a terrific job. We took his energy and commitment into making it happen over the last year or so and we finally made it.

Were you surprised at the reaction you received?

It was fantastic. It’s very gratifying to know that the fans were still there after so long. I suppose some absence makes the heart grow fonder. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché that’s true. A lot of people have come to the U.S to see us and have gone back and said that they had a good time out at our shows. The enthusiasm for the retro stuff is really cool. It’s a testimony to good songs and albums that were made with a lot of hard work and you can’t really beat a night of music like that.

It was great hearing “Edge of the Blade” and “Mother Father,” which took a lot of people by surprise.

That’s what we try to do. We want to show the scope of the band rather than just play the hits. There’s a lot to Journey so we try to play some of the songs that we’ve really enjoyed.

How did it feel to play the theatres of the UK compared to the stadiums of America?

When we put the band back together again in ’98 we played a lot of theatres. We had to build our reputation back up without Steve Perry, so it was like starting over again for a couple of years, so we’re sort of used to it now. In Japan we played similar theatres, so it was similar. It’s a different experience, but I enjoy it.

When you played festivals in England and Europe, it was a chance to play to some who may not have heard you before or may have misconceptions of you as a band. How did you grab their attention in the short space of time you had?

You play the songs that are your most famous songs and the ones that Rock and you put your best foot forward.

The press reviews were universally positive and most said you stole the show at the Monsters of Rock festival in England. That’s pretty high praise bearing in mind the quality on the bill. That must give you a lot of satisfaction.

Yeah, it was one of those days where I think we did really well.

One of the biggest surprises of the shows was Deen Castronovo. How can a drummer have a voice as good as that?

Oh my goodness!! I always knew he could sing from our time together in Bad English. When we were doing background vocals he sounded very good. He started singing at sound check with Journey years ago when Steve Augeri was resting, and it was like “Sing that again!!” We found that he could really sing the ballads well. He really loves it and I’m so proud of him and he’s become part of our sound. It shows our versatility as a band.

Neal obviously rates Deen highly, having worked with him in Hardline, Bad English, and Soul Sirkus, and, of course, you worked with him in Bad English too. What does he bring to the band that other drummers you’ve worked with don’t?

He is a singer’s drummer, because he plays for a singer and he leaves space for a vocalist. That’s one thing that I noticed right away was his ear… the way he puts the snare drum leaves space for the band. It’s something that some drummers do and others don’t. I’ve played with lots of drummers that don’t leave that space and just have this kind of pushy type of thing. Deen plays with an incredible intensity and energy and with great speed. He can be very creative with his playing and with his voice he’s a monster!! He’s an asset for any band. He loves this music and he grew up listening to us, so he couldn’t be finer.

In March you are coming over to the UK for a more extensive 11-date tour. Did you know that some of these dates sold out in a matter of days and extra dates have been added?

It makes us feel so good; it makes us feel like it’s not too late. It was our greatest fear that we’d waited too long but that being said we can’t wait to hit the road.

What sort of setlist are you planning? In the States you have been performing an extended set with material from your pre-Perry era. Can fans expect some of this material in Europe?

I don’t know how far we’re going to go back. We’re going to play some stuff from Infinity. We’ve rehearsed “Winds of March,” and that may show up. We obviously can’t play “Opened the Door,” “Winds of March,” and “Mother Father” the same night, so we’re going to try to mix it up and play some stuff that’s different.

What about material from Arrival and Generations?

I don’t know about Arrival, but we’ve got something from Generations. I don’t think Arrival was that big of a record, so we won’t be doing anything from that. We’ll do what we can do.

Will you be doing any of your VIP packages in Europe?

I’m not sure if they have that over there. We had them in the States and we were a little wary at first, but they were cool. It seems like a good thing for the fans and everyone got into it. It was very civilized.

Once you’ve finished in the UK, where do you head next?

We have a pretty rigorous three-week schedule where we’ll be heading to Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Spain after the UK shows. There’s one point where we’ll be playing 6 shows in 7 nights… I’m not sure how we’ll make it through those!!

It’s just been announced that Danny Vaughan is your support in England. He’s a great performer with an excellent voice and will be perfect for warming up the Journey crowd.

We’ve just heard about it, so we’ll see how it goes. Jeff got it going, we were going to do “An Evening With …” type of show, and Jeff suggested Danny, so I guess this’ll work too.

You’ve have recently toured the States with Def Leppard as co-headliners. Who came up with the idea?

Our managers pulled it together. We’ve been trying to get them to consider the idea for years, but they kept saying “No!” They were trying to consolidate their support, but didn’t realize that one plus one equals four!! When they came out with us they were pleasantly surprised and blown away as well.

You’ve just won the Pollstar Most Creative Package Award for the tour!!

We were thrilled with that and so were they. We’d do it again with them further down the road. We’ve also considered doing it with other bands too, and have already talked about it, but I can’t tell you about it just yet. We’ve already played with Peter Frampton, Styx, and Foreigner, and they’ve gone down great too, so another package is something we’re looking at.

There has been a change in the Journey camp since you were here with Jeff Scott Soto standing in and now replacing Steve Augeri. How is Steve at the moment?

It was not the first time Steve’s voice had been faltering, and he’s had little bouts of voice trouble since 2000. It got to the point where we didn’t really want to go back out on the road with a guy who wasn’t sure. The rigors of the road proved to be a little too much for him over the years. The vocal cords can be fragile and he had something going on. Sometimes it was a matter of speaking him up, but I don’t really know what exactly happened. We decided to bring Jeff in, it was trial by fire if you like, and he went out every night and got the job done. He’s excelling more and more like the singer in Journey.

Will he be rejoining the band at some point?

Jeff is a great singer and very versatile. We can’t afford not to win every night and people pay good money to see us. We wish Steve all the best, and I hope his vocal issues get resolved, but we couldn’t put all our eggs in his vocal basket, there was just too much at stake. He had good shows and some not so good shows. We needed consistency night after night, so we had to move on and work with Jeff and he’s now our singer.

Neal played with Jeff in Soul Sirkus, so he knew all about him. What did you know about Jeff prior to him joining?

Oh, sure. I helped do the Soul Sirkus album; they did that at my house. Neal called me about Jeff and said he thought he was a really strong singer. We then jammed together as a band and it turned out really well. It was amazing how quickly Jeff picked up all the stuff.

Did you not feel like sacking Deen from the drums and making him your new lead singer?

We wouldn’t put that kind of pressure onto Deen; that would be expecting too much. It’s great to have the two singers in the band, but Journey have always had a front man so we wanted to stay with our formula.

Kevin Chalfant has played with you in the past. Was he ever in your mind this time?

He did play with us and Kevin is a great guy, but we didn’t feel that he was right for us. We played together live once in a small club for our old manager Herbie Herbert, and Kevin was great that night, but no, he wasn’t someone we had considered this time.

Jeff is a consummate performer and a versatile singer. Do you think this has helped him seamlessly step into his role in Journey?

In the last few months, he’s got much more of the whole aspect going. The other night I told him that he’s completely morphed into the Journey sound, and it was scary, it sounded like he’d conjured up Steve a couple of times that night. He’s learning vocally how to use it and he’s singing a lot more with a lot less effort. He’s becoming more of a Soul singer and less of a Power Rock singe,r and that’s what Journey is all about. His voice is showing nicely right now and I couldn’t be happier.

Judging by the feedback on the forums, he seems to have overwhelmingly won over the fans. Is this your perception?

Yeah, people have been really positive about Jeff and I think he’s doing a great job night after night, and people can see what a great performer he is, and he captures the spirit of the band. In Steve’s defense, time heals all wounds. When Steve first came along, there was a lot of resistance to anyone else singing Journey songs. Many years have gone by now, and people just want to hear the music. Maybe if Jeff had started with us back in ’98 he’d have probably got a hard time from people too.

Last year Ross Valory said that there was a new live DVD coming out of your earlier tour with Steve. What is the status of that at the moment?

That’s on hold right now due to Steve going down and stuff, so we just felt we should hold it. If we decide to put it out sometime, we will, but at this stage we felt that we’d leave it.

There’s a Midnight Special DVD coming out of all the old 70s stuff. Midnight Special was one of the only shows at the time where they had like T-Rex through to Helen Reddy. I played on there when I was in The Babys. There’s going to be a series of DVD’s coming out with different artists, including Wilson Picket. I was in L.A. for most of that time, and I got to go to some of those shows. So there will be a Journey DVD coming out from one of those shows.

Turning to your solo work, you’ve just released “Faithfully,” a duet with Mica Roberts. It’s a different take on the Journey classic. Can you talk about this?

It was an idea I had for a long time to do as a duet, and it’s an attempt to reinvent the song to do it as a sort of Pop song, and “Faithfully” has a sentiment shared by many people. It’s been released as a single and it’s Number 14 on the charts right now, so we have ourselves a little hit single, and Mica’s a great girl, so I couldn’t be happier. She’s also sung on one of my songs from Arrival; she did a demo of “Loved By You” way back in 1999. It was a song that I tried to write from the heart. I loved her voice then and I love her voice now.

This is lifted from your album Where I Live. It’s more laid back than your Journey material. Is this your chance to explore different avenues musically to Journey?

Right! As a vocalist, this is where I’m most comfortable. I may have been able to be a Rock singer in the old days, but you have to do what you sound right doing. I’m comfortable playing this music and it’s fun for me because I don’t have to scream over it and I don’t need a lot of people to make it. To me, a solo album should be different to what you usually do. I always liked McCartney’s albums because they weren’t like The Beatles albums, and John Lennon too had his own sound as a solo artist. It was a much more intimate thing like “Imagine” for example.

Who did you have playing on the album?

My brother is on there and my son, Weston, plays the drums. Neal is on one track so it’s a great “done in my own backyard” sort of album done in my home studio. I did it in bits and bobs and I kind of like it. It’s sort of like a bunch of postcards from my house. The place I live has always been good to me and I thought it was time to define it a little for the fans and reveal my feelings about life in general. It’s a very personal statement.

Do you approach writing your solo material differently compared to when you are writing for Journey?

Very much so. Most of my songs are based off the lyrics, and I try to write a lot of lyrics. When I’m writing stuff for the band, it’s much more of a bigger scope. I think “Fragile World” could’ve been a Journey song at some point, and maybe “Between A Heartache And A Song” could’ve been a Journey song, but it’s so much more of a cowboy feeling to it. It has to have the Soul and Blues element to be like Journey, and my stuff some people say it has an almost Dylan feel to it. I base a lot of my solo stuff on stories and lyrics, so you have to sit down and listen to it, there’s not going to be this big hook hitting you. It’s an album to wrap your head around and get into it. People have said the more you listen to it the more you get into it. My solo album has layers and that’s fun.

Does having this solo outlet keep you fresh for Journey?

It gives me more of an outlet as a writer. You don’t want to feel like a one trick pony all the time. I love writing songs and there’s even a song about dogs on there!! It’s probably the only one on there where you can say “There’s a chorus for you!!” It’s really good to have such an outlet and it’s something that keeps you sane.

What about Bad English? Is there any chance of activity in the future?

You know John [Waite] is pretty resistant to all that. We didn’t have the best of relationships. We toured with him on the road and he was pretty distant, so I don’t think so. It’s a shame, but I think too much time has passed now. John doesn’t really like doing that kind of stuff anymore, and doesn’t want to dredge it up again.

You are closely linked with a charity called Cain Campaign for Callie. Can you talk about this?

She’s a little girl that is cursed with a whole bunch of things wrong with her, and I met her Mom on the road. We started to see if the fans could do something. She didn’t have much money and she needed a lot of surgery, so we wanted to see if we could help and we did. It’s something that the ladies at my website believe in and I’m proud that they continue to work on her behalf, so they’re trying to keep her going. I’m so proud of our fans for pitching in and helping out.

Finally, what has 2007 in store for Journey and is there a new album on the horizon?

I guess the idea would be to have a new album out in the spring and to start another world tour right after that. Solo-wise, hopefully in-between the Journey activity, I’ll have time to start writing. Once you start, the songs just come flying out. I’ve got several ideas, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s time to recap all the songs I’ve written. There’s so many songs I’ve written that I’d like to go back and do myself. That goes for some of the John Waite stuff as well. I think it would be interesting to have songs that mean something to me and that I love that maybe haven’t got a lot of attention, like “Loved By You” and “Signs Of Life,” to have my signature on them. It would be nice to do an album like that, but we’ll see.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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